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National Interest Test statement - Frequently asked questions


Overview – the National Interest Test 

Why have there been changes to the National Interest Test (NIT) statement?   

The ARC sought feedback on the NIT between May and October 2022 to test how researchers were finding the additional guidance on NITs provided in March 2022. In addition, the Statement of Expectation from the Minister for Education, the Hon. Jason Clare MP, directed that the NIT be clearer, simpler, and easier to understand.

Having taken on board the feedback from a wide range of workshops and consultations, we are introducing a clearer, simpler, and more easily understood NIT to address these concerns. We thank the hundreds of stakeholders who have provided input to this process.   

The NIT is written for a member of the public. It explains the benefits of the proposed research in plain English and in general terms, including likely benefits beyond the period of the grant. This process is aimed at improving the visibility of the excellent research, and promoting the outcomes of this research, to the public which ultimately funds the National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP).  

What has changed?  

Change  Original National Interest Test  Revised National Interest Test 
Word limit  Up to 150 words  Up to 200 words 
Questions to address 
  1. What is the project about? Describe the project in 1-2 sentences.
  2. What are the expected outcomes of the project? What gap is it addressing?
  3. How will the research benefit Australia (economically, socially, environmentally, commercially, or culturally)? How might the research be used?
  4. What translation and adoption pathway(s) might be used to achieve the outcome? For example, are there conditions that would need to be in place for the outcome to occur? If so, briefly describe them.
  1. What is the project about and what research gap is it addressing for Australia?
  2. How could the research benefit Australians (economically, socially, environmentally, commercially, or culturally)?
  3. How might you promote your research outcomes beyond academia to maximise understanding, translation, use and adoption of the research in future?
Consideration of the NIT

The NIT assessment is undertaken by the ARC CEO, separately to the peer assessment process. The NIT statements are a critical part of the funding recommendations to the Minister.

This is in addition to the processes that consider due diligence, eligibility, and peer review assessment of applications.

The ARC CEO is assisted in assessing NITs by ARC Executive Directors who are experts from academia, each responsible for a range of disciplines.

The Executive Directors may undertake the first assessment of the NIT and seek revisions and they are then subsequently considered by the CEO who may also seek revisions.

The ARC CEO must be satisfied with the NIT before submitting to the Minister. The Minister makes the final decision.

University DVCRs will certify in the application form that the NIT statement addresses the three considerations in plain English and is directed towards the public audience.

The NIT will be provided to assessors as an input to the peer review process.

Finally, the NIT will be provided to the Minister who makes the final decision on grant funding.

Which schemes does this new arrangement apply to? 

The new arrangement will apply to all NCGP scheme rounds opening from 1 December 2022.

Grant Scheme  Currently Open to Applications Previous National Interests Test  Revised National Interest Test
DE24  Yes  Yes  No
LP22 Round 2 Yes  Yes No
IN24 Yes  Yes  No
ITRP23  Yes  Yes  No
FT23 Closed to applications Yes  No
FL23 Closed to applications   Yes  No
IE23  Closed to applications Yes  No
IM23 Closed to applications Yes No
IL23 Closed to applications Yes No
DP24  Due to open on 1 December 2022  No  Yes
LP23  Due to open on 14 December 2022  No  Yes 

Advice for DVCRs certifying the National Interest Test

Certifying a National Interest Test (NIT) statement

NIT statements will be certified by the relevant Deputy Vice Chancellors of Research (DVCRs) as addressing the three considerations in plain English and that the statement is directed towards the public audience. The three considerations are:

  1. What is the project about and what research gap is it addressing for Australia?
  2. How could the research benefit Australians (economically, socially, environmentally, commercially, or culturally)?
  3. How might you promote your research outcomes beyond academia to maximise understanding, translation, use and adoption of the research in future?

DVCRs must also consider whether the statement is written in plain English and for the audience – the general public.

The ARC will accept the DVCR’s certification as final and will not review or make requests for changes to a NIT. The ARC will include the NIT with the other elements of an application recommended for funding for final consideration by the Minister.

The ARC has published a range of NITs for successful projects.

General Questions

What is the difference between the National Interest Test and other application components (i.e., project summary, criteria) in the application?   

The key difference is the audience and purpose.

A NIT requires researchers to explain the benefits of their proposed research projects to the Australian public who fund that research. The potential benefits of a research project in the NIT may extend beyond the research period.

These statements deepen community understanding of why public money is being invested in each research project, and help Australia’s policymakers, community and industry draw on that research. Additionally, the statements provide an opportunity for applicants to promote the valuable research being undertaken to the broader community.

It is important to understand that the audience for the statement is the general public.

The project summary and application criteria are written for research peers in academia or industry or other sectors and explains research benefits during the period of the grant.  

Why do I have to produce a National Interest Test statement?

The NIT is a requirement for all NCGP funding. Since all NCGP funding is ultimately provided by the public, the government and the research community are both accountable to taxpayers for the funds allocated under the NGCP. Therefore, the audience for the NIT is the general public.

The NIT is a great opportunity to educate the public on the amazing research that is being undertaken and how it will benefit the community.  

Will NITs be peer reviewed?

The NIT will be shared with assessors as an input when they are considering each application in the peer assessment process. This will complement the existing consideration of the broader national benefit that is currently in the peer review process.

My DVCR has requested a revision of my NIT, but their feedback is unclear. What do I do?  

The Applicant is ultimately the university not the individual researcher, so the responsibility for the final application is with the university. Contact your Research Office if you have questions in the first instance.    

Will an application for funding be rejected if my NIT is not certified by my DVCR?

Yes. Your grant application must include a NIT certified by your DVCR.


Support for applicants

Who can I talk to about the National Interest Test statement? 

Researchers should talk to their supervisor or to their Research Office for help preparing their NIT. Researchers can also contact communications teams or technology transfer officers to test how the proposed project benefits are best articulated for a wider audience.  

ARC Executive Directors regularly deliver presentations to each university on how to write grant applications – including NITs – to Research Offices and share the latest advice on a regular basis.  

Contact your Research Office to ask about when the next presentation or training is available.  

How do I get training in writing a National Interest Test statement?  

Universities hold workshops on how to write grant applications including how to write plain English statements about the research outcomes. 

Over the remainder of the 2022-23 financial year, the ARC is planning to run a series of workshops on co-designing research projects before writing grant applications, including how to write NITs.

Does the National Interest Test statement for my project need to result in a commercial outcome?

No. The NIT asks applicants to explain how their proposal would deliver a societal benefit. The ARC recognises that these benefits may be economic, commercial, environmental, social, or cultural.

Translation and adoption is not only for applied research and is not limited to commercialisation.

Examples of HASS and STEM NITs explaining translation and adoption of research are provided here. Remember, the outcomes are speculative so you are able to say the ‘outcomes might' or 'outcomes could be’.  

Examples of utilisation, translation, and adoption of research in HASS include informing public debate, shaping policy, developing resources for the community, sharing expertise, or producing exhibitions, education programs and events.  

The NIT recognises all pathways to utilisation, adoption, translation, or commercialisation equally and does not prioritise any sector and field of study. The consideration of each NIT should be made based upon the merit of each statement and whether the statement articulates the national benefit to a member of the public.  

Statements from successful grant rounds are available from GrantSearch. Recent funding rounds, using the National Interest Test, have had NITs covering, for example, the assessment of new materials for low-cost solar cells, developing vaccines for farmed crocodiles, urban rewilding, and increasing bilingualism for Australian children.  

In each case, the NIT was able to articulate the problem being addressed, the expected outcomes, and the beneficiaries of the research. 

The ARC has published a range of NITs for successful projects.

Over what
period of time should my response on utilisation, adoption and translation be focussed?  

There is no set period, and the period of time may be beyond the research project grant. For many projects, the pathway(s) to adoption will be longer (in some cases significantly longer) than research in other sectors, for example the translation pathway for computer science is usually shorter than in comparison with biological sciences or theoretical mathematics. 

Researchers are not expected to provide a timeline for the utilisation, translation, or adoption of their research. Rather, the statement should describe in general terms, how this project can be built upon by future researchers, and potentially translated, adopted, or commercialised. 

Explaining the National Interest

If the National Interest Test statement mentions medical technology applications, is this used for eligibility purposes?  

No. You may include information on potential medical outcome(/s) in the NIT because you are describing potential long-term outcomes of the research beyond the grant period.   

Can I mention academic or knowledge generation in the National Interest Test statement? How do I articulate a benefit for fundamental research?  

Research being undertaken inherently advances knowledge, and details of this can be mentioned in the application. The NIT however cannot be solely focused on knowledge generation as the primary outcome.

This does not prevent applicants for proposing fundamental discovery projects. Funding fundamental, or ‘blue-sky’ research through the NCGP is a key responsibility of the ARC.

However, we understand that fundamental research often entails substantial uncertainty ‒ and can take many years to produce transformative results. Indeed, for many types of fundamental research the probability of achieving any specific outcome is often difficult or impossible to know in advance.

As a result, for most types of fundamental research, descriptions of national interest should focus on a reasonable and honest assessment of possible and likely outcomes rather than on the probability of specific outcomes.

Fundamental research could consider how to explain the benefits to the Australian university sector of a project that may partner with international bodies to deliver globally relevant science, guide the direction of future research in the field, or train the next generation of researchers.

Some examples of fundamental research projects are available here: National Interest Test statements

My application has an international focus, will it be assessed as not delivering in the ‘national interest’? 

ARC funds research that can have national and international foci. Even though the application may have an international focus, applicants should be clear on how the research outcomes could benefit Australia. You may consider pathways through additional utilisation and partnerships and that we operate in a global environment and benefits to a member of our community may well be the same for all countries.  

My research has a specific application that is not relevant outside its field. How do I identify the national interest of my research?

Applicants are encouraged to consider who will be empowered by the research. Successful research will generally empower people to accomplish a goal.

  • For fundamental discovery, the research may empower the international research community, students, early career investigators, or other academics.
  • Research with an obvious pathway to translation and adoption will empower industry to address a specific challenge.
  • In other cases, research could empower government, the not-for-profit sector, or individual communities to address local, national, or international challenges.

A good quality NIT statement will articulate the problem being addressed, the expected outcomes, and the beneficiaries of the research beyond academia.

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